by Gary Baum
The Hollywood Reporter
The actor-activist says he won’t host the event at his L.A. home due to a scheduling conflict and Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel have stepped in as hosts. The Clinton campaign denies the decision is connected to questions DiCaprio and his foundation are facing over ties to a $3 billion embezzlement scheme.
Leonardo DiCaprio abruptly has dropped out of hosting a Tuesday fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at his Hollywood Hills home, sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter. The $33,400-per-guest event, part of a series of late-August fundraisers for Clinton in Los Angeles, now will be held at the nearby residence of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
On Saturday, an unidentified source close to the event told People the reason he backed out was work-related – that his current project will keep him in New York until Wednesday. DiCaprio is taking his documentary The Turning Point to the Toronto Film Festival in September. He is not currently filming a movie as an actor.
But the move comes as DiCaprio, 41, has become linked in press reports to a $3 billion Malaysian embezzlement scandal. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an asset-seizure complaint in federal court pertaining to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund called 1MDB. The fund allegedly backed Red Granite Pictures, the production company behind DiCaprio’s The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio is mentioned only as “Hollywood Actor 1” in the complaint, but it suggests the actor’s eponymous foundation may have benefited from gifts made by Red Granite, its principal Riza Aziz and a key 1MDB figure named Jho Low. (THR published an extensive look at the foundation and its connection to 1MDB on Wednesday.)
Hillary and Bill Clinton’s own eponymous charitable foundation has been the subject of intense scrutiny during the campaign, particularly its connection to foreign money. The Clinton Foundation has said it would not accept foreign contributions if Hillary is elected president. One source with experience planning presidential fundraisers said it would be a “no brainer” to keep DiCaprio away from a Clinton event amid the 1MDB suit and press reports, but another said candidates tend to have a lower standard for vetting of celebrity fundraisers.
DiCaprio’s rep, Shawn Sachs, maintained the scheduling conflict forced the actor to bow out. Josh Schwerin, a spokesperson with the Clinton campaign, told THR any suggestion that the 1MDB scandal is connected to DiCaprio dropping out “is completely false. It’s not at all true.” Schwerin added: “If we could have had the event at his home, we would have loved to. He was gracious enough to find us a new host. We hope to do something with him in the future.”
Co-hosts at the Timberlake-Biel fundraiser are still expected to include DiCaprio’s friend Tobey Maguire and his manager Rick Yorn, along with Shonda Rhimes, Scooter Braun and ICM head Chris Silbermann.